“There was a lot of chaos,” recalls Grant Fisher of his stunning win in the Millrose 3000, a race that was marred by the collapse of Kemoy Campbell. “Over the last few laps I was just focused on racing. The weight of the whole situation dawned on me once the race finished.
“People had good races there or had bad races, but I think all of it was put into perspective. Any emotions were put on hold. The weight of that was so much more significant than a PR or not living up to your own expectations in the race—everyone realized that in the moment.”
So it was with mixed emotions that the victorious Stanford senior looked up at the board and saw he had eclipsed Galen Rupp’s American Collegiate Record for the distance with a sparkling 7:42.62 that took almost 6 seconds off his PR.
“The quality of the field meant that in order to beat those guys, you’re going to have to run pretty fast,” he says. “I was a little surprised with how fast it did end up going. I probably would have been less surprised with a 7:45 or so. But I felt like I was in good shape and if I had guys to drag me around for a while, I could run pretty fast and compete with them. Looking up and seeing the time, I was pretty happy with it.”
The race also marked Chapter V in the rivalry between Fisher and Wisconsin’s Morgan McDonald, who edged him at the finish of the NCAA Cross last fall and now leads the rivalry 3–2. Fisher says, “I’ve raced Morgan plenty of times now and it’s always fun. He’s not a guy that you can ever count out. Every time I’ve raced him I’ve felt like he’s brought something out of myself that is something that’s hard to find sometimes.”
That last cross country battle may have played a role in the outcome at the Armory. “Of course I wanted to win that race,” he says, “and I was a little disappointed with how I executed over the last 150m. But it wasn’t like I was hanging my head and full of regret. There are things I learned from it, and I think there were things I learned specifically on how to race Morgan.”
Another rematch is likely on the way at the NCAA Indoor, where Fisher will be in the 3000 in addition to the distance medley, should the Cardinal time—currently on the cusp as No. 12—hold up as a qualifier. Of the double: “I did it last year [4th in both] and I learned a lot. I think I’m more prepared this year.”
Then there’s outdoors, where some big decisions loom for the 21-year-old Michigander, who will be graduating with a degree in Electrical Engineering in June. Last year he competed at both NCAAs and the USATF meet. This summer, there will be a much bigger gap between those events, and with no XC season to worry about Fisher says he may be very interested in going for a U.S. team spot in Doha.
“That conversation [with coach Chris Miltenberg] will probably come after indoor. I’m trying to weigh my options,” says Fisher, who will have one season of indoor eligibility remaining after graduation. “I’ve applied for a graduate program at Stanford. I’ll find out about that in about a month. I’m trying to open up some doors for myself just with the graduate program potentially, or maybe declaring a minor and staying and doing indoors.”
Or, he notes, he may see a professional option. He has a chance to get his feet wet in the big pond when Stanford hosts the Prefontaine Classic in June. “It could be fun to hop into potentially. I have no idea if I could get into an actual Diamond League event, but I think they have a non-DL 3000. It’d be really fun. A great experience.” Whichever way he goes, he notes there are other incentives to staying close to Stanford. “I’ve really enjoyed being coached by Coach Milt. He’s done a great job of bringing me along and integrating me into his system. It works for me.”
Fisher got attention in high school for training on a relatively low-mileage program, up to 50 miles a week under coach Mike Scannell. Now with Miltenberg he’s won an NCAA title and is knocking on the door of world class on about 70M (c110km) a week. “I feel pretty comfortable with that. That doesn’t wear me down too much. And it keeps me fresh.”
Another reason Fisher may stick around is that his younger brother Mark has signed to play soccer for Stanford: “It’ll be cool to see him out here. That’s another factor in whether I’m coming back next year or not because I’ll have a year of overlap with him if I stay for a fifth year. And I think my parents would enjoy that a lot.”